The day was unsettled, with dramatic skies over Crato, an extraordinary small town in the Alentejo. The first stop was to see a colony of storks in an abandoned building on the edge of the town.
In the 13C vast areas of the Alentejo were granted to the Knights Hospitaller (originally the Order of St John of Jerusalem, later The Order of Malta) by King Sancho and in c.1340 Crato became the headquarters of the Order in Portugal, led by a Prior of Crato. The Order also built the nearby Monastery/Castle of Flor da Rosa in the 15C. In 1662 the town was sacked and burned by the Spanish and it never regained its importance.
The main square in the old town includes the Balcony of the Prior’s Palace (above), the Palace of the Arches (now the Municipal Museum), and the cross below with the Cross of Malta.
The Castle must be Mediaeval too, but is closed and apart from this section and some walls it seems as though not much remains. The importance of the site, above the plains, is obvious from the views.
The Parish Church dates from the 13C but has apparently been considerably altered. On every visit it has been closed!
Narrow streets, hidden manor houses, beautiful doorways and windows abound, as do crests on the walls.
And while in the town visit the Father Belo House Museum, an extraordinary collection of religious artifacts.